Investors flocked to a US auction of US$35 billion in five-year notes as European bond yields sank to record lows amid bets that the European Central Bank will add more stimulus in an effort to prop up the flagging euro-zone economy.
"It was a fantastic auction," Ray Remy, head of fixed income in New York at Daiwa Capital Markets America, one of 22 primary dealers obligated to bid at US auctions, told Bloomberg News. "What's driving the US Treasury market is what's going on in Europe. As Europe moves to lower yields, money is moving into the US Treasury market to take advantage of the bigger spread between the two."
A report showed that a gauge of German consumer confidence dropped more than expected, the latest sign of concern about Europe's key economy. And in Italy, Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said the country must dowgrade its official growth forecasts.
ECB policy makers next meet September 4 amid elevated expectations of additional stimulus following ECB President Mario Draghi's comments about the region's declining inflation in Jackson Hole last week.
To be sure, the ECB is unlikely to take new policy action next week unless August inflation figures, due on Friday, show the euro zone sinking significantly towards deflation, Reuters reported, citing unnamed ECB sources.
"The barrier to QE is still very high," said one of the sources, all of whom requested anonymity, adding that discussion at the meeting was expected to centre on reinforcing existing policy measures of credit easing and liquidity provision, according to Reuters.
Wall Street stalled, holding the Standard & Poor's 500 Index near record highs.
In late afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average inched 0.09 percent higher, while the Nasdaq Composite Index eked out a 0.06 percent gain. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was unchanged at 1,999.98.
The Dow moved higher as gains in shares of UnitedHealth and Pfizer, up 2 percent and 1.1 percent respectively, outweighed declines in United Technologies and IBM, down 0.6 percent and 0.5 percent respectively.
"Many of the blocks are in place for the equity markets to make further progress," Richard Hunter, the head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown in London, told Bloomberg News.
Shares of Tiffany rose, last up 1.35 percent, after the jewelry retailer reported second-quarter profit that surpassed expectations and lifted its full-year earnings forecast.
"These healthy second quarter results reflected solid sales growth in our stores, particularly in the Americas and Asia-Pacific regions," Michael Kowalski, Tiffany's chief executive officer, said in a statement. "In addition, an improved gross margin was an important contributor to the earnings growth."
In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index ended the session 0.1 percent higher than the previous close, as did the UK's FTSE 100. France's CAC 40 closed with an advance of 0.04 percent. Germany's DAX slipped 0.2 percent.
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